The Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry engaged with two of its oversight entities for a briefing on economic recovery plans in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The National Employment Fund (NEF) and the Independent Development Corporation (IDC) yesterday both presented plans on their programmes to support economic reconstruction and recovery.

The NEF told the committee that in addition to the R400 million Covid-19 relief packages, the NEF will approve R160 million for the Women Empowerment Fund from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC). The total funding of approximately R560 million will be made available to black-owned-and-managed businesses. The NEF’s Black Industrialist programme received a R200 million endowment from the DTIC for concessionary funding of black businesses to manufacture and supply healthcare products and essential foods in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

The IDC said even in a low economic growth environment, the corporation has continued to invest significantly in new industrial capacity, creating jobs and driving transformation. The corporation has been working with key partners, including DTIC, to assess the impact of the current environment, collaborate on opportunities to mitigate the impact and develop long-term interventions. There is a clear alignment of programmes with key focus areas in the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Programme-sector alignment and transformation objectives.

The IDC said its contribution goes beyond financing. It is supported by value-add technical assistance programmes to enhance reach and impact of industrial development programmes, including policy advisory, investment facilitation, business support, funding leverage, equitable spatial development and export support. As the country prepares itself for recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the poor economic performance that was prevalent before its onset, the IDC will play a catalytic role in recovery based on strategic partnerships and stakeholder alignment.

Committee Member Mr Zolile Burns-Ncamashe said the entities should have a robust engagement in rural spaces and from the presentation this appears to be lacking. Another committee member, Ms Nomosonto Motaung, applaud both the NEF and IDC for their good work under difficult economic circumstances. She said the work of the NEF is especially noticeable in the transport and tourism sector. However, she raised concerns about the provincial concentration assistance provided by both and said they must improve accessibility in other provinces.

Committee Member Mr Dean Macpherson wanted to know about the delay in housing the NEF in the IDC, as it does the same job. The NEF said in response that the question should be asked to the stakeholder (government or the minister) as it operated within its mandate in accordance with an Act of Parliament.

Committee Chairperson, Mr Duma Nkosi said it is important to ensure inclusive participation in the economy. He said the majority of people in the country are black and a lot should be done to include them in economic activity. He also called for the participation of women and youth and said a greater focus might have to be placed on these categories.

Rajaa Azzakani
4 March 2021